A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Human Collectives and Corporations, part 3

Humans organize into collectives as a normal part of their biological/social process. The Consciousness System of Order is a function of collective design. Common language, common experience, common Story are the bindings of common action. Groups of Communion are the natural and ecologically effective basic form for all the many designs of collectives that have sprung up, as humans have increased in number, and as competition for space and materiel has moved from other creatures and ecological processes to each other.

(Note: it is typical of academic study to avoid a disease or dysfunction model except as a last resort. And we should be uncomfortable with such models since they are easy and more often than not only represent a failure to see beyond our own prejudice. But, if dysfunction is the correct understanding, it is dangerous not to recognize it. Imagine if we refused disease models in human health and only looked for a proper role for the wide swings of blood sugar levels of a diabetic! We must, but very carefully, use a dysfunction model for human social behavior if we are to correctly understand our present world.)

We need some sort of taxonomy of the many forms of collectives that have formed from the basically singular design of tribal communities – a combination of systematic biology and the DSM. This is a very large order, and cannot be addressed here beyond the simplest distinctions. Traditional sociology analyses collectives as groups of different types, structures and functions. These are seen primarily as places where individuals dwell in some degree of relationship: primary groups such as families and other intimate associations; secondary groups such as economic units; and special groupings that individuals may use in some fashion, but are not necessarily members of such as reference groups (although ‘group’ is a technical term in sociology, it seems equivocated in these three taxonomic divisions). These ways of looking at collectives are useful, but don’t inform my concerns.

We do not function as individuals in all, or even most, situations. Our behavioral product is collectivized into actions that we might or might not willingly perform, but absolutely in most cases could not perform individually. I would not do a ‘drive by’ in Detroit, but I support an ecology of human collectives that results in that action. I would not invade Iraq. I would not put a sick or injured person out on the street because they didn’t have health insurance. In fact, I know no one who would personally invade Iraq or who would personally deny medical care: the most hardcore conservative person (who is not crazy) I know has a very kind heart face to face.

We need to understand the collective as organism and this only makes sense with a clear understanding of consciousness as fully functional system of order. We understand the biological organism because it has a sustaining information base in DNA/protein, thus a mouse is a mouse and a hippo is hippo; a liver does its thing and a mitochondria its thing.

The various forms of human collectives are only weakly analogized by biological concepts and taxonomies, but they are entities with informational bases and processes by which they adapt to the forces they are attuned to recognize.

One of the major ways that human collective organisms differ from biological organisms is that the Consciousness System of Order, the information system for human collectives, has a capacity for madness that can be found in only very limited ways in biological systems. Madness is the failure to function in the substantive reality of one’s situation. It is of questionable sanity to believe that aliens are beaming thoughts from a space station on the moon into your mind and it is insane to act on that belief. It would not be madness if there were scientific proof of aliens with highly focusable mind control beams.

It is madness to act as though what you do today or for the next several months has no consequence for the months and years afterward. It is demonstrably true that actions taken today have impacts on the future. Yet, we can find human collectives that act on the principle that only the next few months matter. There are human collectives that support and act on the principle that the human members do not matter as much as the continued existence of the collective. Could this also be madness?

Perhaps we have exceeded our capacity if we can create a new design order that is so crazy that its (our!) Story is that the living substrate doesn’t matter. But, in fact, having the capacity to exceed our capacity: we see it all the time. We can build machines that we must govern so that they don’t act beyond our ability to respond to them. We have clearly organized our collective actions into “entities” with unintended sets of behaviors that overrun our capacities to comprehend and manage their actions. A hundred people organized to a set of complex tasks can be an overwhelmingly powerful force in the service of any Story that they accept.

The collective as a proper organism must have a informational basis and a description – it must have some process of origin and natural history of development. There must be some relationship to its parts and the parts must be supported and sustained (even if not in their original roles) by the collective organism.

Considerations of the events and processes of institutions requires that we have some sense of them as collective organisms. Just as we can make no sense of patterns of movements of a snake without comprehension of its integration into the ecology, we can make no sense of – we can only be confused, abused and amused by – the actions a CEO or a president without seeing their place (or their view of their place) in the “ecology” of collective social and institutional organisms. I say ‘their view of their place’ since human collectives are informed not by genetics but by Story and it is ‘their view’ that informs the design of action in the collective. The competent and sustaining collectives must, however, reinforce the informing basis, the Story, that maintains them. And sustainable collectives must relate their functions to the genetic, living order, functions of the participants.

What is not clear from the science is just how high up Maslow’s hierarchy one can assign a genetic basis. It is obvious that the primary needs can serve as motivators in the design of social constructions, but what about self-actualization needs? It is possible that the Primate Pattern is an addressable condition, that is, the better the fit of the collective organism to the Primate Pattern, the more sustainable it is?

The current financial situation offers example: the lack of information from the Fed and Wall Street players given to the public’s representatives and directly to the public is taken for granted by all concerned as natural and normal. Why is that? The Story is that it’s none of our business and is too complex to understand even if we were given the information. Furthermore, the Story goes on, wealth is being created that will spread through out the society (the large collective of which we are all “equal” partners) so there is no point in looking too closely at the machinery so long as it keeps turning out product; if wealth is not constantly created we will lose the ease of life and the stuff we have. And the metaphysical color of the Story: wealth and virtue are combined qualities.

The confusion of individual motives with collective motives is almost complete in our present time. For example, wealth is a collective motive while safety and happiness is an individual motive. But we assume that wealth is the individual motive of greed when wealth’s only efficacy is in the collective for establishing forms of relationship.

This is, of course, all complete hogwash (originally, the “wash” from the kitchen that was feed to the hogs). The corporate collective organism has grown its own Story and designed its informing systems, an important part of which is its protective coloration. But, it would be a mistake to think of a few Machiavellians thinking up a scheme and playing it on us all. This an organism grown and must be responded to as such. A frontal assault on such a bullish beast will only drive it to narrow its focus for counterattack. We must either attack it with enough immediate and direct force to kill it off entire or oppose it with another collective organism of sufficient adaptability and integration that the corporate collective is reduced, adapts in integration with a more powerful social organism or becomes extinct. The only collective organism with that potential is socialism (thus the great ‘hatred’ and dread of socialism by the corporate organism).

The difficulty and madness that we currently face is the possibility that the corporate organism has grown to such an extent that it will try to leap beyond its inhibiting human basis, that it will conceive a Story that doesn’t include humans as its primary principle, but only as supporting caste and unnecessary to the ‘corporate purpose.’ We are seeing this right now in such statements as, ‘the only correct goal of a corporation is to make a profit.’

Humans who have been completely corporatized, that is, so fully integrated into the collective’s Story that they don’t realize their separateness, have become different from those humans who realize both their roles in the various collectives of which they are a part and their individuality; this happens at all levels in the organism’s hierarchy and especially so at the more apparently powerful levels. This does not, however, mean loyalty to a company, but deep emersion in the Story. Our financial/corporate system has not been hijacked by high-class criminals that we can find and expel, but is the breeding ground for those very roles that maintain the corporate organism: the mailroom provides the stemcells for management organs.

No comments: